BROWNING — Diana Burd, a pillar in the Blackfeet Tribe, was honored at the a council meeting on March 4th for her work to keep the Blackfeet language alive. She has taught the language for 45 years and says she will continue to teach until she can’t anymore. Now she has been named the 2021 Global Educator of The Year by the Montana World Affairs Council.
“It’s quite an honor and I appreciate everything you’ve done for me on the reservation,” said Burd during her acceptance speech at the meeting.
She teaches the language to all academic levels from Pre-K all the way to elders in the community through the Cuts Wood Immersion School in Browning. "There’s just so much to learn in language. It’s a continuous thing. You have to dream language, see language, walk language in order to learn it,” she said about the dedication that goes with learning a language.
As an educator, Burd has developed creative ways to preserve her native language by using song, stories, plays, and games in her curriculum. These methods are what led her to be honored as Global Educator of The Year, an award created by the Montana World Affairs Council to recognize teachers that go above and beyond to educate their students.
Tribal chairman Timothy Davis says Burd is an irreplaceable pillar for the Blackfeet community: “Just her persona. They call it the truth of the spirit and that’s what she is, truthful. She’s there to always speak the truth and not to put you down for what you don’t know but to bring you up so you can learn.”
Burd is glad to see times changing where she is now able to be honored for her first language - a language that was once forbidden to speak that is now a priority to teach. “If people start getting together and tribes start initiating their language and getting speakers and getting everybody involved I do believe the language can come back. That’s our whole lifestyle, that’s who we are as Native American people. I really believe that. That’s my passion, that’s my belief, and that’s what I do,” said Burd.
A new language can be a challenge to take on, but Burd wants all those seeking to learn not to be discouraged: “No matter what situation you’re in, always try hard.”